Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Human rights or political gamesmanship?

A recent article, "'Human rights abuse and other criminal violations in Port-au-Prince, Haiti: a random survey of households," by Athena R Kolbe and Royce A Hutson, published in The Lancet, Volume 368, Number 9538, 02 September 2006, appears to be the latest salvo in campaign to keep some Haitian politicians from being held to account for the abuses they committed against the people of Haiti.

While no one disputes the fact that human rights abuses took place during the 2004-2006 interim government in Haiti (in fact I personally lost several friends during this period), many of us who follow the country closely have reason to believe that this report was in fact composed as part of an ongoing attempt to rehabilitate the public image of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his political party, Fanmi Lavalas. There is compelling evidence to suggest that the coordinator of the research, and one of the two authors of the Lancet article, Athena Kolbe, is in fact a pro-Fanmi Lavalas journalist who goes by the name Lyn Duff. At the end of the article "We Won't Be Peaceful and Let Them Kill Us Any Longer" - Interview with Haitian Activist Rosean Baptiste, interviewed by Lyn Duff, 4 November 2005, San Francisco Bay View, there is an email link to the author: Email Lyn at

Lyn Duff is described as "a friend of Aristide" in Justin Felux's article, 'Debunking the Media's Lies about President Aristide', published by Dissident Voice on 14 March 2004, and worked with Aristide's Lafanmi Selavi center for street children, which was one of the centers for arming and organizing the gangs who terrorized Port-au-Prince during his tenure (I had several gang-leader friends who passed through there). All of this naturally begs the question of how Kolbe/Duff's "research" into the issue of human rights violations and the perpetrators be regarded as objective when she herself states that for three and half years she was an Aristide employee, who states that her sympathies are solidly with Haiti's disgraced former president and his party. The Lancet report states that no murders or rapes were committed by Lavalas partisans during the past two years, a statement that, given Haiti's climate of partisan violence, beggars belief and flies in the face of eyewitness testimony many journalists have collected.

At a press conference I attended at the outset of 2002 held by several armed pro-Lavalas militant factions from Cite Soleil held at the Centrale Autonome des Travailleurs Haitians (CATH) hall in downtown Port-au-Prince, (sponsored and attended by such Cite Soleil notables as Amaral Duclona, James "Billy" Petit-Frere, Rosemond Titus and others), many women there described how they were repeatedly gang raped by gang members in the neighborhood. As the militants sponsoring the conference were closely affiliated with the Fanmi Lavalas party, it followed suit that those victimizing the women in those zones often were not. Given the factional fighting among the gangs, these did not always hold true, though. Later, some of the pro-Lavalas gangs, especially that commanded by Dread Wilme, became notorious for using rape as an instrument of terror.

As some of the ghastly rapes carried out in Saint Marc in February 2004, including one by a gang lead by Ronald "Black Ronald" Dauphin in the ruins of the city's burned-out commissariat, were carried out in full view of the CIMO and Unite de Securite de la Garde du Palais National d'Haiti forces in the city - who at the time were reporting directly (and hourly) to Aristide's National Palace - one must ponder whether these sexual assaults were happening with government sanction. There are many survivors who can attest to this.

I can recall policeman Jean "Grenn Sonnen" René Anthony, who operated under commissar Emmanuel Mompremier at the Delmas 33 precinct as a torturer and executioner during Aristide's tenure in office before linking up with Rémissainthe Ravix to engage in freelance banditry after Aristide's ouster, went on Haitian radio in early 2005 (I forget which station) to say that he was going to rape and murder PNH spokeswoman Gessy Coicou. I remember being stunned that any station would carry such a declaration.

Rape, unfortunately, appears to be looked upon as just another weapon in the arsenal of some of Haiti's politicians by which they can crush opposition to them and whatever designs they may have on power. It is high time that it be denounced without regards to who is committing it, and that foreign lawyers, journalists, researchers and others stop attempting to shield the guilty from having to answer for their crimes.

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